Have you ever had an idea so exciting that you wanted to drop everything to work on it, but you wondered if it would be worth it in the end? Macy Miller is a young architectural designer who found an opportunity to make her professional and personal passions overlap. She literally dreamed up a very small house layout, and quickly decided to design and build her own tiny house on wheels.
She expected that the project would satisfy her curiosity about the construction process and her desire for financial independence, but she got a lot more than she bargained for. Her home also became a flexible space to start a family, and helped her meet some of her most ambitious life goals with the onslaught of publicity she received for its high-end look and surprisingly low price tag.
Saving Money by Spending Time
Macy’s tiny house has been widely publicized in mainstream media for its distinct, modern design and bafflingly low construction cost. It’s a little easier to understand how someone could build a home that looks this good for under $12,000 when you hear how much work she put into minimizing her costs. But she’s always been frugal, so she didn’t mind spending countless hours on cost-saving tasks like disassembling “80 or so” pallets to use as her siding, or preparing her atypical trailer for her tiny house build.
You can never know where a path will take you, but when Macy chased her dream and followed her instincts, she ended up achieving more than she expected. This post is a preview of my visit with Macy, but there’s much more in my ebook Life in a Tiny House.
Designing for One, with Flexibility for Two
She primarily designed her home to fit her life, but Macy also made sure the design was flexible enough to grow with her as her life changed. And then change happened fast – she became pregnant, and had the baby after living in the house for less than a year:
Macy: I did consider all the options, even having a kid. My life could have gone any number of directions, so I designed it to be very flexible.
I designed the porch so it could be enclosed, so if I wanted more privacy, I could have a separate bedroom, or it could be a little nursery. I thought about doing it, but I love my porch, and I don’t need it: kids want to be around their parents. Around the time she’s three or four, I imagine we’ll have a different situation. There may be a point that it makes sense for her to have a separate space, and I enclose that patio and it becomes her room.
A lot of tiny houses have built-in furniture. I don’t have built-in furniture very intentionally. I like re-arranging a lot. There’s about nine different arrangements I could have for this furniture. People do not believe me, but I can draw them out for you.
So there’s a lot I can come up with if this situation doesn’t work, but it does. I wouldn’t change it if I could. But that may not always be the case. I’m just going to go with the flow, have the flexible attitude. Whatever she needs, whatever I need, we’ll make it happen.
I’m really glad that I have the house, because I’m not stressed about having to get back to work so I can pay rent. It’s enabling a lot more relaxed time. The whole idea behind a tiny house is focusing on the priorities, and she’s become a priority.
For Macy, the house is a success because it helped her accomplish what she planned from the beginning: she learned every aspect of home construction, and created a result that frees her from frustrating rent checks and mortgage payments. But to her pleasant surprise, the house helped her meet a number of her loftier “bucket list” life goals as well:
Macy: Part of the process of me deciding if this was gonna work was, I went through my bucket list, and if I built this house, it would check off 14 things. That seems like it’s worth doing. And it has hit so many more than that. I had, “Be on the radio,” on my bucket list, and I’ve been on NPR! “Be in Dwell Magazine?” I get to check off Dwell! And I’m pretty sure it is the cheapest way to get into that magazine. [laughs]
It’s opened a lot of doors. But the actual house itself, it’s an educational tool for me that has this by-product of free rent. It’s a big experiment that I’m living in, and I think that that’s cool and fun.
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Keep up with Macy’s tiny house news on her super informative website and blog Mini Motives. For more stories and photos from Macy and all the other tiny house folks I interviewed, check out the Life in a Tiny House ebook.